Former ONE bantamweight champion and UFC contender John Lineker will enter the ONE Championship circle for the third time in 2023 this Friday, when he takes on Filipino Stephan Loman.
Lineker (36-10, 1NC) has certainly had his ups and downs since joining ONE Championship in 2019. He immediately went on a four-fight win streak that saw him capture the promotion’s bantamweight crown, though his progress was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, ahead of his first title defense last October, Lineker missed weight, and was stripped of his crown. The fight, which did move forward, saw Lineker illegally kneed by Fabricio Andrade, necessitating a rematch that Lineker lost. He bounced back just last month with a win over Kim Jae-Woong, but again missed weight for the bout.
Ahead of the Loman fight at ONE Fight Night 14 in Singapore, Lineker told Cageside Press that it’s hydration, not weight, that he’s really struggling with. ONE Championship requires athletes to not only make weight but pass hydration tests ahead of their fights, limiting the amount of weight an athlete can cut. It’s part of an effort to curb extreme weight cutting in response to the death of ONE fighter Yang Jian Bing in 2015, the result of a weight cut gone wrong.
“The weight itself has not been a problem. The problem we had was with hydration, and we definitely have tackled this in a different manner this time around,” Lineker said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “I’m confident this will no longer be a small issue.”
Whether you consider being stripped of the title a small issue or not, it will be interesting to see how Lineker does at the scale this week. Critics of ONE Championship’s hydration program have argued it’s too easy to game, but an athlete like Lineker struggling to make weight in an odd way might be a sign of success— he simply hasn’t been able to consistently cut the weight necessary to hit the limit while remaining hydrated.
The fight against Loman, meanwhile, sees Lineker continue his climb back to the top. “We all start from the bottom somewhere, and we have to fight to get to the top. And I think this fight will be another great challenge for me, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Lineker said on that front.
Asked when he discovered that his power was something special — Lineker is named “Hands of Stone” after all — the Brazilian responded by saying that “well, it’s a difficult question to answer. I guess it’s how I was born, it’s natural. And then throughout the fights I kept finding out more and more about my talent, my gift, and kept working towards it.”
Watch the full ONE Fight Night 14 virtual press conference with John Lineker and Stephan Loman above.